Do Work-at-Home Jobs Pay Less Than Office Jobs?

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: April 4, 2013

Pay Differences Between Telecommute & In-Office

One persistent belief about work-at-home, or telecommute, jobs is that they almost always pay far less than in-office jobs. But is this really true?

While it may have been the case many years ago when telecommuting was just starting to take shape as a movement, today’s at-home jobs pay salaries comparable to in-office jobs. Additionally, there are substantial cost savings that come with working from home, such as a reduction in commute costs, wardrobe and dry cleaning bills, eating out, and childcare costs to cover time spent commuting. Ironically, recent surveys have shown that professionals would gladly take a pay cut to be able to work from home. In particular, a 2012 survey of working parents found that nine in ten parents value workplace flexibility, including telecommuting, more than competitive pay in a job.

That being said, the reality is work-at-home jobs’ salaries are typically in-line with traditional office jobs, so people don’t necessarily have to choose between the convenience of working from home and the size of their paycheck. *Here’s a breakdown of five of the most common telecommuting job categories, along with a comparison of their salaries and those of similar in-office jobs.

*Salary data: All salaries listed are for annual full-time schedules based on 40 hours per week, for jobs that require very similar or the same qualifications. The telecommuting salaries are based on real telecommuting job listings from FlexJobs and the in-office salaries were researched on Salary.com.

5. Medical & Health

Telecommuting & In-Office Salary Comparison:

  • Telecommuting Registered Nurse: $58,000 minimum salary
  • In-office Registered Nurse: $66,713 median salary

Nursing is one of the most common medical jobs that can be done from home. Surprising? Perhaps, but many health insurance companies and medical centers hire at-home nurses to help patients over the phone with case management, wellness and care planning, symptom checks, and other tasks.

4. Customer Service

Telecommuting & In-Office Salary Comparison:

  • Telecommuting Customer Service Professional: $32,718 ($15.73/hour) salary
  • In-office Customer Service Professional: $36,360 median salary

Customer service is another area where professionals will find a lot of opportunity to work from home. More and more, companies are opting for at-home customer service agents based in the U.S., rather than outsourcing these jobs, and the variety of companies and industries is endless.

3. Administrative

Telecommuting & In-Office Salary Comparison:

  • Telecommuting Entry-Level Administrative Assistant: $26,000 ($12.50/hour) minimum salary
  • In-office Entry-Level Administrative Assistant: $36,779 median salary

The jobs of administrative and executive assistants have easily translated to an at-home setting because their work is done mainly on computers and telephones. Virtual administrative assistants help individuals, departments, and offices with phone and email, scheduling, travel arrangements, filing and documentation, event planning, and a variety of other administrative tasks.

2. Sales

Telecommuting & In-Office Salary Comparison:

  • Telecommuting B2B Account Executive: $45,000 base salary, plus commission
  • In-office B2B Account Executive: $62,005 median salary

Sales jobs are a perfect fit for telecommuting because so much of sales is traveling throughout an assigned territory for in-person meetings. By hiring virtual account executives who live throughout the country, companies can have a dedicated sales person or team who is always available in a particular region.

1. Education & Training

Telecommuting & In-Office Salary Comparison:

  • Telecommuting High School Teacher: $24,960 minimum salary ($12/hour)
  • In-office High School Teacher: $54,956 median salary

As more schools move some or all of their curriculums to the Internet, virtual teachers and tutors are called upon to educate students online. Virtual K-12 teachers are needed in a wide variety of subjects, from math and science to humanities and social studies, and even physical education and psychology. The certification requirements are usually the same, and vary depending on the state in which you teach.

Don't Let Fear of Working from Home Hold You Back

When looking at direct comparisons, work-at-home jobs have salaries which fall into the same range as in-office jobs, some paying more and some paying less. Of course, when trying to figure out if your paycheck would change as a telecommuter, it’s important to take into consideration a few fine points.

Salaries for in-office jobs are often dependent on where you live, so if you’re in a more suburban or rural area where local salaries tend to be lower, your prospects may actually be better with a telecommuting job with a company based in a more competitive market where the cost of living is generally higher. Conversely, if you work in an urban setting, you may find that telecommuting jobs pay slightly less, but offer you huge cost savings because they eliminate commuting costs like gas, car maintenance, parking, or public transit fares.

Generally, the qualifications for telecommuting jobs are the same for similar in-office jobs, although having a good working knowledge of technology, being a good self-manager, and being a proactive communicator are likely to be desired skills for telecommuting jobs. Aside from specific traits like those that an employer might look for, your earning potential still depends on your education, experience level, certifications, and professional qualifications. So, if you find yourself considering working from home in the future, don’t let the unjustified fear of a smaller paycheck hold you back.

Let Salary.com Help You

Whether you're working from home or taking a traditional office job, the important thing is you receive a paycheck that's fair. And that's where Salary.com can help.

The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.

How much are you worth?

  • Search US Salaries
  • Search Canadian Salaries
  • Browse Job Openings

Related Salary.com Content